Successfully onboarding and retaining employees

Sandra Pieterse | HR manager | E-mail Sandra Pieterse

Talent is scarce, and the competition in the job market is fierce. Attracting, retaining, and continuously engaging valuable employees is a top priority for every company. But how do you create an environment in which employees feel fully connected to your organization? A pleasant workplace where employees work happily, are engaged, and thrive.

Effect makers Sandra Pieterse (HR manager) and Afra Hendriks (Event Creative) discuss Employee Experience; the importance of onboarding employees, the atmosphere in the workplace, and personal attention.

A sneak peek? It takes more than just a ping-pong table and a table soccer game!

“Onboarding is super important,” Sandra explains. “This phase is intended to truly help people settle in. You can easily allocate about 6 to 9 months for this. However, it’s still common to expect the employee to be fully informed about everything after just 2 months. That’s not realistic. You want the new employee to get acquainted with the organization, the culture, and the colleagues. Understand the ‘way of work’ and practical things like the systems used, how internal processes operate, as well as basic things like where the coffee is and where to get lunch. Give the new employee the space to discover the organization on their own. See it as an opportunity to live up to the promises your (employer) brand makes. So, employees’ expectations align with reality. This is a creative way for employers to distinguish themselves.”

“In this period, you, as a new employee, are developing your own story,” Afra adds. “The story you tell at a birthday party when they ask where you work and what you do. The speed at which this happens also depends on the individual. Where does someone come from? Is it their first job, or do they have years of experience? Is there enough room to adapt, and does it feel safe to ask questions and communicate expectations?”

Early stages

A new employee comes in with a blank slate and depends on the information they receive. Sandra points out that it’s essential to be aware of this and ensure that everything is well-prepared. “The first day at work is often nerve-wracking for new employees. You usually only know a few colleagues, everything is new, and you’re bombarded with a lot of information. By thoroughly preparing all the logistical matters, like laptops and system logins, someone can ease into the organization more comfortably. As an organization, make sure the new employee feels welcome, heard, and seen. Regularly check their expectations and ask what they need to perform their job well and feel like a part of the team. Keep an ongoing dialogue about how things are going, whether their talents are adequately utilized, and where they might need assistance.”

“And there are fun, creative tools that can make the onboarding process more enjoyable,” she continues enthusiastically. “These tools can be tailored to your brand and company. Consider onboarding apps or a bingo card with onboarding activities to check off. It’s a playful way to introduce someone to the organization, colleagues, and culture. Always choose a format that aligns with your organization.”

“It’s like a new relationship where both parties are discovering whether they truly fit together. This requires time and energy from both the company and the new employee,” Afra responds.

Being Seen and Heard

“Whether someone will eventually feel at home and want to stay for an extended period depends on various factors, including their engagement with the organization,” Afra continues. “Therefore, involve everyone as much as possible in all activities. You can do this by seeking input for activities. For instance, ask people what they want to do at the annual summer party and create a shared music playlist. By involving employees, it becomes a party for everyone, and they’ll be more inclined to attend. We also notice this with the events we organize for companies. Instead of a sports activity where the best wins, more often, companies opt for an activity like ‘Expeditie Robinson,’ where a wider range of qualities is utilized. Everyone wants to be seen and heard.”

The extra mile?

As an employer, it’s essential to determine how far you’re willing to go to retain an employee. Are you willing to go the extra mile? It remains an exciting journey of discovery. “Always be aware that this journey is different for everyone,” says Afra. “Some people stay with an employer for years, but especially early in their careers, others may switch more frequently. Is that a problem? No! If someone wants to end the relationship, make sure that the last month, just like the onboarding process, is a celebration. Because you want employees to look back on their time with your organization with a good feeling and to continue sharing positive stories about your brand and company.”

“Organizations change, and so do people’s desires and expectations,” concludes Sandra. “How wonderful is it when you can continue to discover together whether you still want to take the same journey and what’s needed for that? There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. It’s always tailor-made with genuine attention to each other.”

What is Employee Experience?

Employee experience is the perception of an (potential) employee in all interactions with the organization and how it aligns with their expectations. Activities that provide a positive experience to an employee contribute to a good Employee Experience (source: Employee Experience, Heleen Mes, and Gea Peper).

Take action

7 practical tips

  1. Customized Onboarding: Tailor onboarding of employees to the individual, their role, and team. Find out the new employee’s expectations in advance and adjust the onboarding process accordingly.
  2. Welcome Gesture: Make new colleagues feel welcome by sending a card a week before they start or creating a short video so they can get to know the team. Invite them for a lunch at the office or a company event to meet some colleagues.
  3. Stay Connected: Regularly organize activities to maintain a sense of connection and foster a different way of getting to know each other. Consider activities like a “crossing the line” workshop.
  4. Talent Development: Prioritize talent development. Help employees recognize, share, and align their talents with their work. This enhances job satisfaction, fosters connections among employees, and improves collaboration.
  5. Celebrate Success: Commemorate achievements together, such as the signing of a contract or landing a new client.
  6. Utilize Talents: Make the most of existing talents, even if they are not work-related. For instance, a colleague with a flair for interior styling can help redecorate the office.
  7. Offboarding: Stay in touch with former employees so they become ambassadors for your organization. Consider organizing activities for ex-colleagues as well.

Need help with recruiting and retaining employees?

Contact Marlous at and discover how we, as a creative and strategic communication agency, can assist you in recruiting and retaining new employees.